Staff members at Bignell Watkins Hasser Architects gathered on October 2, 2017 for a presentation from three of their colleagues whose families are directly impacted by the recent hurricanes in Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, USVI.
Aida Latorre, an Associate at the firm, led the presentation with photos of the devastation in Puerto Rico. She has family members who live there and are without power and some are without running water. Ms. Latorre also informed the staff of the destruction of cultural and environmental landmarks, including La Fortaleza and Old San Juan, UNESCO World Heritage Sites and El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rain forest in the national forest system.
Deborah Sandoval-Marte also shared photos from Puerto Rico and shared that her family is only able to reach her by driving far from their home to have phone service. They do not call frequently because they are conserving their fuel for their generator. Residents are waiting in lines for 12-24 hours to get gasoline. This effort has been complicated by a government imposed 6:00 pm curfew due to theft and looting in the evenings.
The firm’s newest employee, Kyle Wyatt, is from St. Thomas, USVI. His family is still there. He shared current photos of his home and contrasted them with vibrant photos of the community prior to the hurricane. His family and friends have no electricity and no estimate for when it will return. A grim photo of a small bag of packaged foods and candy demonstrated the dire conditions. MRE food supplies have run out and officials are handing out what they have on hand.
Bignell Watkins Hasser Architects has arranged for their staff to make voluntary payroll deductions to donate to relief efforts. The firm will match donations up to $200 for each of their 40 staff members.
“I think it is important for us to give our staff a vehicle through which to donate to the relief efforts, especially when our colleagues are directly affected,” explained Francis Watkins, President of Bignell Watkins Hasser Architects. “Furthermore, I hope it encourages them to tell their friends and family and encourage them to also give. The hope is to not only give but inspire others to give too.”
The affected staff members researched organizations through which the funds will be allocated. Funds raised through the firm will be directed to 21 US Virgin Island Relief Fund, Direct Relief Fund, United for Puerto Rico, and Mexico Volunteer Rescue Brigade.